Maribor enjoy purple patch in Scotland

Maribor are unbeaten on their last three visits to Scotland

Aberdeen v Maribor: Europa League third round qualifier, first leg
Venue: Pittodrie Stadium Date: Thursday 28 July Kick-off: 19:45
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB, live text on BBC Sport website

Maribor visit Aberdeen on Thursday evening looking to overcome a fourth Scottish team in six years.

The Slovenians have enjoyed their recent visits to this part of the world, knocking Hibernian, Rangers and Celtic out of Europe.

Can the Dons buck the trend in their third round Europa League qualifier, or will the Purples from Styria continue their good run of form?

Marcos Tavares scored the vital away goal at Levski Sofia to set up a trip to Pittodrie and the Maribor captain will be a familiar name since the 32-year-old Brazilian featured against Hibs, Rangers and Celtic.

Goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic is another old hand, but defender Marko Suler and forward Damjan Bohar are the only other players in last week’s line-up that were involved against Celtic in 2014.

That triumph against Celtic took Maribor into the Champions League group phase for the second time, while the win over Rangers in 2011 started a sequence of three successive group campaigns in the Europa League.

But Aberdeen fans should note that last season was not a great success for Slovenian’s leading team since they were eliminated from Champions League qualifying by Astana, the Kazakh side with which Celtic are currently locking horns, and were beaten to their domestic title for the first time in five seasons.

Maribor v Hibernian (agg: 6-2), 2010

Marcos Tavares celebrates a goal at Easter Road<!–

Hibs were simply blown away in the first leg of this third-round qualifier in the Europa League, with Josip Ilicic, who would later move to Palermo and Fiorentina, scoring twice and Tavares banging in a third.

The visitors adopted a defensive strategy, leaving striker Derek Riordan and Anthony Stokes on the bench, but could do little to stem the slick Maribor attacks.

Maribor quickly snuffed out any hopes of an unlikely Hibs comeback at Easter Road, with that man Tavares knocking in a header after 20 minutes.

Edwin De Graaf scored a brace on his Hibs debut, either side of a Dejan Mezga penalty and another strike from Tavares.

Maribor v Rangers (agg: 3-2), 2011

Jasmin Handanovic makes a save to deny David Healy<!–

The first leg began well for Rangers in Slovenia, with a Kirk Broadfoot cross diverted in for an own goal, but Agim Ibraimi, now at Astana, fired past Allan McGregor seven minutes after the break.

A fine second-half display from the hosts was rewarded with a clever back-heel finish from Atien Velikonja in stoppage-time.

Handanovic, now 38, played a blinder at Ibrox as Rangers squandered several good chances, with Dalibor Volas plundering an away goal.

Carlos Bocanegra levelled, but Handanovic made a series of late saves to see his side through.

Maribor v Celtic (agg: 2-1), 2014

Maribor won at Celtic Park to reach the Champions League group stage<!–

Reinstated to Champions League qualifying after Legia Warsaw fielded an ineligible player, Celtic looked on course to make the most of their good fortune when Callum McGregor scored early in Slovenia.

The visitors were quickly pegged back by a well-taken Damjan Bohar equaliser, while Handanovic and opposite number Craig Gordon were kept busy in a game littered with goal-scoring chances.

The pick of those opportunities fell to Virgil van Dijk, with the Celtic defender’s header blocked on the goal-line by the face of team-mate Stefan Johansen.

The return leg in Glasgow was a completely different story, with Celtic blunt in attack and Maribor dictating possession.

Zeljko Filipovic, who moved to Belgian club Mechelen this summer, was stand-out in the middle of the park and Tavares again proved the danger man, forcing a shot past Gordon after 75 minutes.

There were more heroics from Handanovic too, as the goalkeeper somehow kept out a stoppage-time shot from Van Dijk.

BBC Sport – Football

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